Join us as we study through 2 Corinthians verse by verse. Our discussion questions, teaching points, and applications can help you or your small group get the most out of this book as you grow in understanding and obedience.

2 Corinthians 8:8-15 Inductive Bible Study Guide – Developing a Generous Heart

I. The Example of Giving (8-9)

Discussion Questions

  • If this was not a command, then what was it (8)?
  • What model does Paul give in these verses?
  • What can we learn from Jesus about generosity?
    How does Jesus’ generosity inspire you to be generous?

Cross-References

Luke 11:13 – If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Acts 20:35 – In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

1 John 3:16-18 – This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Teaching Points

1. I say this not as a command – Paul was not demanding that they give. Their gift should be freewill and from the heart, not commanded of them. God desires us to give because we want to, not because we are required to.

The same is true for a parent and his children. I can tell my son, “share your Legos with your sister.” He will then do it. But I would much rather see him do it because he wants to without me forcing him to. When I see him choose to share of his own volition, that warms my heart.

Application: Giving is not compulsory. No one can make you be generous. God wants to see you choose to be generous because of a response to His love for you. In what area do you need to ask God to give you a more willing heart to give?

2. To prove by the earnestness of others that your love is also genuine – In the previous verses Paul shared with the Corinthians about the generosity of the Macedonians. They gave even when it cost them a lot. Suffering much affliction because of their poverty, the Macedonians still joyfully gave. And their gift was not just a little gift, but rather they showed a “wealth of generosity.” In verse 4, Paul says that they “begged” to receive the favor of being able to give. He uses the word earnest. They begged earnestly for this favor.

So why did Paul share this example? He wanted to inspire them with this good example, yes. But he also expected them to react with generosity of their own. And this response would then in turn prove that their love too was genuine.

Therefore it was like a test for them. The Macedonians passed with flying colors and their love was clear to all. Some Corinthians may have doubted themselves or their own response. Paul believed the best about them. He believed they too would pass. And this test would then reveal their own love and generosity.

God sometimes tests His people. And these tests are not done so that God can find out what they do since He already knows the future. Rather, they are to reveal the person’s faith and commitment to God to that individual.

The test of Abraham was like that. God knew that Abraham would be willing to give up his son for Him. But Abraham did not yet know it. Through this test Abraham’s faith was proved to himself. And thus it was strengthened. Doubts were banished and replaced with a stronger confidence in God.

Here we see the difference between a test and a temptation. A temptation is meant to bring a person down, to seduce him and to prove that he is a slave of sin and cannot ever be free. The tempter hopes for failure. But a test is designed to lift a person up, to strengthen him. The one who performs a test hopes and expects success.

3. The example of Jesus –

2 Corinthians 8:9 – For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Paul had shared the example of the Macedonians. And how he shares the ultimate example, Jesus. What is really the motivation for giving? It is not an external thing. It is not pressure. It is not a command from Paul.

But it is a response to the grace of Jesus. When you are feeling stingy and reluctant to give, look at what Jesus gave up for you. He had it all. No one was higher. No one had more. And yet no one has become lower. He gave up all of His divine rights and riches (Philippians 2). He became sin so you might become righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21).

He gave up heaven so you could go there. He gave up a relationship with the Father (when He was on the cross) so that you might have one. He is perfectly holy and yet He was willing to become sin so that you could become holy. He took your punishment so that you wouldn’t have to.

Application: When you feel stingy, look at the cross. When you want to hold back something for yourself, look at the cross. Jesus gave it all so that we could have an eternity with Him. How can we still hold back? His grace should motivate us to generosity. Spend some time now and pray. Ask God to forgive you if you have shown a stingy spirit or held things back for your own. Thank Jesus for the cross. Ask Him to fill you with a heart of generosity.

II. Completing The Process of Giving (10-12)

Discussion Questions

  • How long had passed since the Corinthians had begun this collection?
  • Why might it have taken so long?
  • What can we learn in verse 11 about the importance of finishing a task?
  • Which is easier, starting or finishing?
  • What project or mission have you started that you need to finish?
  • What principle of giving can you learn in verse 12?

Cross-References

James 1:4 – And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Philippians 1:6 – And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Acts 20:24 – But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Luke 14:28-30 – For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

Teaching Points

1. This benefits you – Paul was not saying this because he wanted to rob them. He wasn’t trying to take something away from them. Rather, he wanted them to receive a blessing. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35).

Paul wanted the Corinthians to experience the blessing of giving. Learning to give would benefit them far more and far longer than the money ever could.

2. A year ago started… now finish doing it well – A year before the Corinthians had began this collection. It appears that at some point they stopped. Perhaps this was due to the influence of false teachers who may have even used this as an opportunity to accuse Paul of selfish motivations.

Paul reminded them in the previous verse, this benefited them. It was for their benefit and not his.

Now he encourages them to finish what they started, to “complete” it. We are reminded that it is often easier to begin something than to finish it.

Every year many people make New Year’s resolutions. For a few days or weeks they start a new plan, perhaps a diet or an exercise routine. But most fail to carry it through and finish it.

Christians are sometimes like this as well. We passionately start a new project or mission and fail to carry it through. It could be a Bible reading plan, a prayer schedule, a verse memory goal, an evangelism program, or an outreach project.

Reflect: Share an example of something you started for God and did not finish. Why did this happen? What can you learn from it?

One reason we sometimes fail is because we don’t count the cost (Luke 14:28-30) at the beginning. Other reasons include trials, temptations, and obstacles.

God will finish what He started in us (Philippians 1:6). And He expects His followers to do likewise.

Application: What practical ways can you become better at finishing what you start? What can you do now to help ensure that you will finish the Christian race?

3. According to what a person has not according to what he does not have – The issue with giving was not, “I can’t. I don’t have enough.” Paul says that if the “readiness is there” then that would eliminate excuses. The question is not, “Do you have enough?” It is, “Are you willing to share from what you have?”

Proportionate giving is “acceptable.” God does not ask for what you don’t have. He does ask for you to share what you do have.

The same is true for sharing the gospel. You can’t share what you don’t know. You can’t and don’t need to be able to answer every difficult question. But you can share with you know. Let us with open hands hold out to God everything we have, no matter how little.

III. Giving is Sharing (13-15)

Discussion Questions

Why does Paul call it “fairness” for those who are more well off to give to those who have less?
What would you say to someone who has the attitude, “I have earned what I have and it’s fair for me to keep it?”
How does reciprocating play a roll in the church family? Should this be a motive in our own giving?
What ideal does verse 15 describe? How can we as believers do a better job at sharing in a world where capitalism reigns?

Cross-References

Acts 4:32-35 – All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Luke 3:11 – And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”

1 Timothy 6:18 – They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.

Exodus 16:18 – But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.

Teaching Points

1. As a matter of fairness your abundance should supply their need – The word “fairness” here can also be translated as “balance” or “equilibrium.” In the early church in Jerusalem, many believers sold what they had and shared it with the group so that those in need would have enough.

The concept here is a bit similar, but not to that extent. Should a believer live a life of luxury while ignoring a fellow believer who lacks the basic necessities to live? No. God wanted the Corinthians to be generous and look out for other believers who were worse off than themselves.

Believers should have a heart of compassion and love for others. We should recognize that God has placed us as stewards over everything in our care. And He has done so for the purpose that we would use these things for His kingdom.

That principle has remained consistent from Old Testament to New Testament times. For example, landowners with farms were to leave some parts unharvested for the poor of the land to glean (Leviticus 19:9-10). Those who had abundance were to share with those in need. This was His way for society to take care of those less fortunate.

Application: Believers should look out for fellow believers. Caring for the poor is mentioned repeatedly in the Bible. The “I made this and it is mine” mentality is wrong. We are followers of Jesus. And Jesus, who was rich, became poor for us. How can you practically share with those in need?

2. So that their abundance may supply your need – Life is filled with ups and downs. The Corinthians were a bit up, but in the future they might be down. Would they not want believers who were well off to help them if they became down?

Paul is teaching the principle of “you reap what you sow.” If the Corinthians sowed generosity then one day they may reap it. Naturally if they needed help they would not want other believers to harden their hearts and ignore them. And now neither should they.

3. Whoever gathered much had nothing left over and whoever gathered little had no lack – This is quoted from Exodus 16:18. Apparently some were able to gather manna more quickly and efficiently, thus gathering more. And some gathered less. But those who gathered more shared with those who had less so that each person had enough.

Perhaps some more elderly people or weak were not able to gather as easily. So others pitched in and helped. That is the heart of sharing that Paul is encouraging.

There is also a deeper principle there. God’s provision for His people was enough. But it sometimes went through an intermediate. Perhaps you too can be the conduit for God’s blessing to others around you.

Let us as members of the body of Christ, take care of one another. Through that heart of love, the light of Jesus will shine and attract more people to Himself.

2 Corinthians 8:16-24

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